Welcome Back….to school! I LOVE back to school, setting up my classroom, buying new supplies and finding new ideas to try out for the new school year. This year, I have two new teammates, so I am hoping to get some great new ideas from them! One of my new teammates asked me, “What is the most important thing to do with the students at the beginning of the school year?” Hands down, I said it’s so important to lay the foundation of what you expect and model for your students what ‘it’ should look like, sound like, etc. The beginning of the year, especially the first few days or even weeks are exhausting! Topping that off with going over rules and expectations it can be boring!
How do you make it all work and get your students to ‘buy in’ to your expectations, routines and rules? You have to make it F-U-N! Of course, you have to set your rules and start to build the foundation of how you want your classroom to run, but it doesn’t have to be boring!
I love using the book, David Goes to School by David Shannon in my first grade class. We read it several (million) times and each time, I add a little more D-R-A-M-A! I love having my class ‘act out’ the book. I ask who would like to play the character of David? (MOST hands go up!). Once having a “DAVID,” you tell all the other kids to be the role models and ‘act’ the correct way. David gets to be, well David! Read the book and allow the kids to ‘act’—there will be LOTS of LAUGHS! The kids will want to act it out over and over! I will choose another ‘David’ and do it a couple times. Then, I use it as a ‘dangling carrot!’ I’ll say, “Boys and Girls, that is all the time we have this morning (you will hear—ohhhhhhhhhhh!), but if we are able to follow directions (not like David!) and work well this morning, maybe we’ll have another chance to act it out after lunch.” Your students will be so excited and say, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” You will have the BEST BEHAVIOR ever! Just make sure that you do allow time to ‘act’ it out again! Because it is a short book, it takes all of five minutes and the kids already have it memorized!
Using this book is a great way to start a discussion about what rules we are going to have in our classroom. I love making a class ‘Rule Book’ that becomes part of our classroom library. I have done this several ways, often depending on how my students react and participate with the book. One way is to strictly create a classroom rule book and have the students illustrate each page. Another idea would be to have students pair up and choose a ‘classroom rule.’ For that rule, they have to illustrate a page of following the rule correctly and illustrate a page following the rule incorrectly (like David!). The kids love this and really get into it. When the book is all put together, I have the pair share their pages. They love it!
Now, taking it one step further as you continue to instill the rules and routines, I use an incentive (for about a week or two) for ‘rule followers.’ When a student is demonstrating role model behavior with one of the rules, he/she gets a ‘Caught you following the Rules’ ticket. You can decide how and what you want to do with the tickets. Students can take them home with pride or you can have students write his/her name on the back and put them in a jar for a drawing at the end of the week! Prize? Something simple! I have also tried to catch EVERYONE to make sure each child gets at least one ticket in the jar. Then, at the end of the week I will say, “Raise your hand if you have a ticket or tickets in the jar.” ALL of the students raise their hand (I make sure, because I keep track!). Then I say, “WOW! EVERYONE has at least one ticket in the jar?” I continue with positive feedback. “YOU ALL know how to follow rules! This is AMAZING!” You can decide to give the whole class a small reward, sticker, 5 minutes of extra recess or whatever. All these little activities will be F-U-N and will play a part as you continue to set your expectations for your classroom. You will be able to refer to the activities. For example, when the class takes too long transitioning or is talking to much you can say, “Remember when we ALL had a RULE TICKET in the jar? I KNOW you can ALL follow rules!” It’s a great reminder.
…and for YOU…I have a F-U-N way to start your year off right! Click on the picture for a FREE product that includes classroom rule book pages AND the ‘Caught you Following Rules’ tickets! It also has a QR Code (which is also a hyperlink if you don’t have devices in your classroom) with the story, David Goes to School. I put it in my listening center after I read the book and do the acting out activity with my class. The kids just LOVE it!
I have a few other Back to School products that you can check out in my store, too!
I hope you start the year out right with setting your rules and expectations for your students.